Thursday, September 24, 2009 By: Suzanne

The Golden City by John Twleve Hawks

The Golden City is the third and final installment in John Twelve Hawks' trilogy The Fourth Realm. If you've missed my previous discussions on these books, you can see them here and here.

Before I get into the actual review of this book, I have to say I waited a very long time for it. I know, there are people who waited something like 15 years for Stephen King to finish The Dark Tower series, so I guess I should count myself lucky. AND, I started this series long after I started Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and I'm STILL waiting for that ending so I guess I shouldn't complain too much. At least Hawks didn't die before finishing! But I feel like I've waited even longer for this last book because it seemed so important in a way that other fiction doesn't. These books opened my eyes to the craziness around us. Yes, this is fiction but the technology he talks about is real. These terrible things that the Vast Machine uses to control people in this series are things that are actually being used today. I won't go all crazy talking about that again. My first post on this series pretty much says all I wanted to say on that.

I also started this book later than I wanted. I wanted to re-read the other two books before this one came out in order to remind myself of any parts of the plot I had forgotten. I had loaned a friend The Traveler and didn't get it back until the day before The Golden City was released. Then, I had to deal with fleas in the house. Oh, what a joy. That took a lot of time to wash everything and the dogs and I am still not sure they're completely gone. YUCK! Then, I got the flu and didn't feel like reading. So, all this waiting and anticipating can build an excitement for a book that can either make it all the more wonderful or a big let down. This was not a let down.

I think Hawks has grown as a writer since the first book. His style is the same but there is more flow between passages. I have no idea if this really was his first book as is claimed but if he was already an accomplished writer like some have speculated, I don't think this growth would have been obvious. If you're confused by that statement, then you're not aware that no one really knows who John Twelve Hawks is. His name is a pen name and he never makes appearances. All interviews and online commentary are through a third party and he claims to live off the grid. I wasn't aware of this when I first picked up The Traveler. I simply saw an interesting book at the store and decided to read it. I was so blown away by the ideas presented in it that I began looking for more information. There are whole sites dedicated to discussing who he might be. In the older posts Dan Brown seems to be the major contender but I read a lot of Dan Brown's books and unless he's REALLY good at changing his style, I don't think that's it. Plus, he also just released a book. Not likely. Some other interesting candidates were J.K. Rowling, Michael Cunnigham, and Stephen Hawking. I'm intrigued by the Rowling suggestion. What better way to fend off the naysayers if you want to put out something completely different than what you're known for. However, I don't buy it either. I think my favorite is the Stephen Hawking suggestion. I'm not sure where this idea came from but it's a wonderful one, even if it's not true. I don't really care though. If Hawks wants to be mysterious and never show himself, I say so be it as long as he gives me another wonderful novel.

The Fourth Realm series is centered around Maya and Gabriel. Maya is a wayward Harlequin. She was born into the life and taught by her father from a very young age to fight, be independent, and avoid being a part of mainstream society in order to best protect the Travelers. The Travelers are people who are able to leave their bodies and travel to one of 5 other dimensions (or realms). Gabriel is just learning in the first book that he is a Traveler. Along with his brother Michael, he has inherited this gift from his father. The Traveler mainly introduced these characters and showed us the power of the Vast Machine. Gabriel and Michael early on chose different sides in the conflict. The conflict appears to be almost over by our time. The people in power behind the governments are a group called the Brethren. They have over time amassed a great deal of power and lead the world quietly without ever being detected by the majority of the population. Travelers come into every generation and learn from their travels to other realms. They see the world in a different way and are able to lead people toward true freedom. I imagine if travelers were real then the ones from the last century would be people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and John Lennon. Obviously this makes this a threat to the vision the Brethren have for the world and they have been hunted throughout time. Until now. Now Michael has joined their team.

I think one of the most interesting aspects of these books is the 6 different realms, which Hawks borrowed from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The First Realm is a type of Hell, or Hades, or whatever you want to call it. It is a place where violence is constant and a way of life. The Second Realm is the place of the Hungry Ghosts, where the people can never be satisfied. The Third Realm is the forest of animals. No humans live here and it is speculated that this mirrors the biblical Eden. The Fourth Realm is where we live. The Fifth Realm is a place of the half-gods where the dominant trait is jealousy. And the Sixth is the realm of the gods where the dominant trait is pride.

During The Traveler we are given a chance to experience the Second Realm. The First is prevalent throughout The Dark River and The Golden City. In The Golden City Michael meets the half-gods and is shown by them how to manipulate the governments of the world to take over. By this time he is truly one of the bad guys. It seemed to me that the Sixth Realm was a version of what our world would be if we don't wake up and demand our rights not be taken away "for our own good." Both he and Gabriel briefly visit the Third Realm and I wish they had spent more time exploring. Maybe it would have dragged the book a little but I feel this was the most beautiful Realm. It sounds like a place I would like to visit. Gabriel also gets a surprise when he finally makes it to the Golden City in the Sixth Realm.

I think Hawks did a good job of wrapping up the story in this book while still leaving us wanting more. On his site he answers questions from his fans. In response to one about this book, he said he can't answer questions that would have spoilers. But he also put in this tidbit that I'd like to leave you with. I think it sums it all up nicely:

In general, I can say that those characters that are alive at the end of the trilogy are going to continue those lives.
At the end of The Golden City, the implication should be that what happens is up to all of us (myself included). Are you going to defend your own freedom? How will you stand against the Vast Machine?


Anonymous said...

Fleas are NOT fun! Even when they are goine you can still feel them :)
I've not read tthis series, but your wrap up at the end makes me think I need to! Ominous.